The Top Three Fat Burning Exercises
By Myprotein Writer Sarah Curran
There are three exercises that should be included in some shape or form in all resistance training programs for anyone trying to lose fat and build muscle. All three of these exercises are compound movements, meaning they work numerous big muscles in the body.
Whether you have a three day full body programme or a variation of a split programme over six days, these exercises should be top of your list of priorities for a number of reasons. They give you a serious bang for your calorie and energy expenditure buck, train your full body and also improve the smaller factors such as your balance, grip strength and overall strength and power which are crucial to long term results.
Because there are so many variations to the above exercises, you will never get bored, and simple changes to the positioning of your feet or your grip can make the exercises not only hit your muscles at a different angle, but also more challenging for you as an athlete, especially as you progress to heavier weights. This is progressive overload at its finest and I can honestly say when I started incorporating these movements into my routine, alongside lifting heavy, the results spoke for themselves. Aside from helping you achieve an insane physique, there is nothing more satisfying than beating a personal best on these three lifts!
Known as the king of all exercises for good reason, the squat works all the muscles in the lower body, and also packs a mighty punch to your core too, making sure you rely on it heavily for stabilisation throughout the movement. Studies have also illustrated the squats ability to increase both testosterone and growth hormone levels, thus encouraging muscle growth overall in the body. Most notable though is the squats ability to build the glutes, in particular, making this is an exercise nobody should miss out on for leg day.
There are many variations of the squat, all of which can provide a different emphasis on different parts of the muscles, for example, the back squat places a lot of emphasis on the glutes and hamstrings, whereas front squats focus is on the quads. It is important to keep the back straight in a squat and push the hips back as though you are about to sit in a chair. A great tip I picked up in training was to push through the outside (Lateral) heel when squatting as this stops the knees from going inwards or outwards inappropriately and avoiding unnecessary pressure on the ligaments.
If you find you are at a plateau with your squats, a good way of breaking this is introducing box squats for a few weeks. I found that implementing these into my routine temporarily not only built my confidence but also increased my strength significantly when I transitioned back into back squats.
2. The Deadlift
The deadlift provides some serious competition for the squat and is one of my favourite exercises, quite possibly because not only did I achieve some serious improvements from incorporating them into my programme, but also because I struggled hugely with them when I began training. I went from using an empty bar to gradually progressing up to 100 kg lifts. It took a lot of time and effort but boy was it worth all that hard work!
The deadlift again works the lower body, with particular emphasis on the glutes and hamstrings, but it also works the upper body too, including your back, shoulders and arms. I recommend using chalk rather than weight lifting gloves as I found my grip improved significantly when I made this switch, thus enabling me to move more weight, this also carried over to my other lifts too. There are many variations of the deadlift, from the Romanian deadlift to the sumo deadlift and you can use a barbell or dumbbells to carry out the movements.
You can also vary your grip with all the variations of this movement. With this exercise, it’s very important to keep your back straight as rounding of the back can cause injury. Push back with the hips; it may help to imagine you are pushing your hips back to the wall behind you. The top part of the movement is also known as the lockout, and to do this correctly a good cue is to imagine yourself standing straight like a soldier pulling your shoulder blades back. Through the entire exercise, you should keep your whole body tight for stabilisation.
3. The Bench Press
The bench press is an excellent exercise for the upper body. It has earned its place in the top three exercises for good reason as it works the whole upper body. You can vary your grip to target different muscles with this exercise also, for example a close grip will place emphasis on the triceps. You can also vary the position of your bench to target different portions of the chest using an incline or decline bench rather than just a flat bench.
The incline bench places emphasis on the upper chest, the decline bench places emphasis on the lower chest.A good tip that helped me improve on my bench press was to work on my back mobility so that I could get a really strong arch in my back under the bar. You should keep your elbows tucked in tightly and keep the tension tight throughout your whole body for the full duration of the lift, most importantly your upper back and push your heels as hard as you can into the floor to promote stability and to keep the whole body tight. You can add even more variation with resistance bands by wrapping them around dumbbells and then looping the bands around the barbell at either side.
This is a useful trick for busting out of a plateau as the band gives extra resistance at the top of the movement which many people struggle with. It is also a good idea to alternate barbell work with a few weeks of dumbbell work as this will correct any imbalance of strength that you may have on one side. It may also increase the weight you can move with the barbell, and also provides some variation to your programme.
Take Home Message
When trying to burn fat these three exercises are definitely a good place to start- but don’t rush into things! Learn the movements, the grips and the correct form first! Safety should always be your top priority and although I always encourage heavy lifting, make sure you have your form down before you progress to a heavier load and make sure you pay attention to it throughout your whole lift!